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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?

A woman grieving the wrongful death of her husband in Georgia.

A woman grieving the wrongful death of her husband in Georgia.When someone in your family dies as a result of someone else’s negligence, it’s only natural to wonder what you can do to respond. One potential option is to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party responsible for your family member’s death. Though a lawsuit can’t bring your family member back or erase the pain of their loss, it’s a way to hold the liable party accountable for what they’ve done and help make up for the financial losses associated with your loved one’s passing. Many families find solace in securing a measure of justice on behalf of the deceased.

If you’ve lost a family member in Georgia due to someone else’s reckless or negligent actions, Butler Kahn is ready to discuss your situation when you feel ready. Our highly-rated Atlanta wrongful death attorneys have extensive experience with these kinds of cases, and our clients have recovered significant compensation with our help.

We know the mental and financial toll that a family member’s unexpected death can take, which is why we fight so hard to help our clients seek the financial recovery they need and deserve.

If you would like to talk about your family’s legal options in a free and confidential consultation, reach out to Butler Kahn. We are here for you when you are ready.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?

According to Georgia law, only certain surviving family members can file wrongful death lawsuits if a person loses their life due to another party’s negligence. Eligible family members include surviving spouses, children, and parents. Without these surviving family members, a personal representative may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the victim’s estate. 

Georgia Law on Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim

Georgia law defines a wrongful death as one in which “the death of a human being results from a crime, from criminal or other negligence, or from property which has been defectively manufactured, whether or not as the result of negligence.” In plain English, a wrongful death results from the carelessness, criminal action, or other legal fault of someone else, whether their actions were intentional or not.

A common example of a wrongful death is when someone dies in a car crash after a drunk driver. All drivers have a legal duty to obey traffic laws and prevent other motorists from being injured, so by getting behind the wheel after drinking, the drunk driver acted negligently.

In Georgia, state law places strict limits on who can file a wrongful death claim. There are only four groups of people who are eligible to file a claim after someone’s wrongful death. They are:

  • Spouse of the deceased – The deceased’s surviving spouse is first in line to file a wrongful death claim. This does not include former spouses if the deceased was divorced at the time of death.
  • Children of the deceased – If the deceased has no surviving spouse, then the deceased’s child or children are next in line to file a wrongful death claim. Children can file a wrongful death claim only if there is no surviving spouse.
  • Parents of the deceased – If the deceased has no surviving spouse or surviving children, then the surviving parent or parents can make a wrongful death claim.
  • Estate representative – If the deceased has no surviving spouse, children, or parents, then the representative of the estate may file a wrongful death claim. In these cases, any money recovered in the claim is held by the estate and distributed to the deceased’s next-of-kin.

Other surviving members of the deceased’s family, such as siblings or grandparents, are not allowed to file wrongful death claims in Georgia. Should a sibling or other relative wish to make a claim, they will have to go through either one of the closer family members listed above or through the administrator of the deceased’s estate.

Who Can Receive Compensation in a Georgia Wrongful Death Claim?

Georgia’s wrongful death statute says that any compensation recovered in a wrongful death claim must be divided among the deceased’s surviving spouse and any surviving children. If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, the compensation will be split up among the deceased’s heirs as dictated by the terms of their will.

If the deceased died without a will, Georgia’s inheritance laws will determine who can receive any compensation from a wrongful death claim.

What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?

There are two different categories of compensation available through a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia. The first category is compensation for the “full value of the life of the decedent.” This is an attempt by the courts to put a monetary value on the deceased’s life so that the liable party can be held accountable for their negligent actions.

To determine the value of someone’s life, the courts will look at two factors:

  • Economic value – In a wrongful death claim, the economic value of the deceased’s life is based on the financial losses suffered as a result of their passing, such as their earning potential if they were still alive and able to work, work benefits, retirement income, and so on. The younger someone was at the time of their wrongful death, the longer their potential earning period, which generally equates to more compensation.
  • Non-economic value – In a wrongful death claim, the non-economic value of the deceased’s life is based on the intangible losses suffered as a result of their death, such as the future years of life that they lost, their surviving family’s loss of their emotional support and companionship, and similar factors. Because these factors can be more challenging to prove, wrongful death attorneys will often collect detailed information from surviving family members to show the full impact of the deceased’s death.

In addition to this compensation, the representative of the deceased’s estate can make a separate claim for specific financial losses related to the deceased’s death. This is known as an estate claim. It may include things such as the deceased’s medical expenses before death, funeral and burial costs, and the pain and suffering the deceased endured before death. The administrator of the deceased’s estate must bring estate claims.

What Is the Deadline for Filing a Georgia Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Generally speaking, you have two years from the date of the deceased’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, certain circumstances can delay the start of the two-year clock. For example, if the wrongful death is the result of a criminal act, the clock doesn’t begin until the conclusion of the criminal case.

If you wish to pursue a wrongful death claim, it’s best to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you don’t run into any trouble with George’s statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits.

Why You Need a Top Georgia Wrongful Death Attorney

As with any personal injury case, there’s a lot of work involved in wrongful death claims. There’s evidence to gather, paperwork to submit, negotiations with the liable parties, court hearings to attend, and more. If you don’t have an experienced wrongful death attorney at your side, your claim may be denied, or you may not get the compensation you could have otherwise received.

Butler Kahn has handled many of these cases, so we know how to effectively build a claim and fight for the money you deserve. We’d be happy to review your situation and advise your family about how best to proceed.  Visit our contact page or call one of our offices for a free case review.

Picture of Jeb Butler
Jeb Butler’s career as a Georgia trial lawyer has led to a $150 million verdict in a product liability case against Chrysler for a dangerous vehicle design that caused the death of a child, a $45 million settlement for a young man who permanently lost the ability to walk and talk, and numerous other verdicts and settlements, many of which are confidential at the defendant’s insistence. Jeb has worked on several cases that led to systemic changes and improvements in public safety. He has been repeatedly recognized as a Georgia SuperLawyer and ranks among Georgia’s legal elite. Jeb graduated in the top 10% of his class at UGA Law, argued on the National Moot Court team, and published in the Law Review. He is the founding partner of Butler Kahn law firm. Connect with me on LinkedIn
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